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Old 05-17-2013, 04:05 PM   #1
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Refrigerator repair or not?

We are brand new to the world of Airstreams. We recently purchased a 66 Caravel with a nonfunctional refrigerator. I am generally one who like to keep things original but would like to hear from all of you in regards to that. We were advised by the previous owners to get a new one because the newer technology is so much better. I have not even had a look at the unit but I will shortly. We look forward to all your wonderful advise.
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:25 PM   #2
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It's not that the newer refrigerators are better technology. They are basically the same mechanically, with a few more bells and buzzers, and some convenience features. The real issue is safety. Propane fridges use ammonia gas in their coils. It's poisonous. It's bad if they leak. Yours is old. Yours may be a simple fix. But if it's a leak, it's hard to get someone to work on them.
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:57 PM   #3
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A common "fix" for old refers that do not work is to replace the tubes comprising the actual working innards of the unit.

The question would be to see if they are still available for your model.

Google "replace rv fridge cooling unit" to get an idea of what that means.

Tell us: what condition is the refer in? Is the interior in good shape? Any cracks, damage or wear?
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Old 05-17-2013, 07:18 PM   #4
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Besides some rust where moisture collected around the seal it looks fairly good for it's age. The only crack in the plastic is on the bottom. What does not look good to me is that it seemed to have cracked there because something under that spot apeares to have swollen.
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Old 05-18-2013, 12:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefandmissy View Post
What does not look good to me is that it seemed to have cracked there because something under that spot apeares to have swollen.
OK, so let's sing it together:

♫We've already said ‘Goodbye'.
Since you've got to go
Oh you had better go now.
Go now. Go now. Go now
Before you see me cry.
I don't want you to tell me
Just what you intend to do now. ♫

It something has swollen in there, it may very well be harbouring some kind of nasty things that I won't go into. Safe to say, it ain't healthy no more.
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Old 05-18-2013, 12:53 PM   #6
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First thing to do is plug the fridge into electric for a day and see if it cools. If it cools on electric then it will work on gas. If it happens to work everything else can be fixed.
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Old 05-18-2013, 05:13 PM   #7
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Yep, my fridge worked on propane, not on AC. Turned out to be a heater coil, $60 now it works on AC. Anybody know how to get rust off the door seals?
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Old 05-18-2013, 05:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Yep, my fridge worked on propane, not on AC. Turned out to be a heater coil, $60 now it works on AC. Anybody know how to get rust off the door seals?
Do you have a good source for that electrical coil? I have the original Dometic fridge for my Bambi II and it works on propane but not electric. I figured it just needed a new electric coil.

Per the original post-I would keep it original if it is practical to do so. New fridges are not better- just more complicated.

Thanks-

Ben
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Old 05-18-2013, 08:35 PM   #9
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You are not looking for a "heater coil" you are looking for a "heater element".
You need to know the rating of the element. It will be depicted in WATTS.
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Old 05-18-2013, 08:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefandmissy View Post
We are brand new to the world of Airstreams. We recently purchased a 66 Caravel with a nonfunctional refrigerator. I am generally one who like to keep things original but would like to hear from all of you in regards to that. We were advised by the previous owners to get a new one because the newer technology is so much better. I have not even had a look at the unit but I will shortly. We look forward to all your wonderful advise.
First, as someone else suggested, see if it will work on 120 volt electric. Be sure the trailer is nice and level. If it will work on electric it can be made to work on propane.

Those old small Dometic refrigerators were pretty reliable. The amount of ammonia in them is quite small and will drive you out if it happens to leak, but not likely to harm you. The cooling technology is very similar to that used today, but the level is a bit more critical. The two stage flame temp regulation is still very viable and does not require any 12 volt power, does not have and circuit boards to die and in my mind is still an excellent technology. I replaced a small refrigerator in my Argosy with a 5 cu ft Dometic RM2510, not because of how it worked but because I wanted a larger size and the older two stage flame technology. In other words, I don't believe the new ones have technology which is "so much better".

So, if you can really determine that the Caravel refrigerator is dead, get a new one. If it can be made to work as is, I would keep it.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:19 PM   #11
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Twinkie is right, you may need the heater element. First check continuity, it may be good and you have other problems.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:46 PM   #12
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Keeping the original also guarantees a good fit in your trailer. A replacement fridge might not be the same size as the opening and will require cabinet modificatons.

We replaced our non-functioning fridge with a refurbished unit from a place about 60 miles away. It was a lot cheaper than new, but it led to us having to change the cabinetry around it, which led, eventually, to the replacement of all the interior cabinetry panels and bulkheads because we liked the look of the our birch bits better than the original laminate. So...maybe not cheaper than new, after all.
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Old 05-19-2013, 02:42 PM   #13
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enosburg , Vermont
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I find the "old" fridges reliable & simple. Usually any faults are due to neglect. If it apeers structurely sound its worth a little time. Bare in mind 6 to 8 hrs is common for one to come down to temp. Its usually easier to take one out and test it on the bench. 1st look for amioia leaks, they usually show as yellow powdery residue on the tubing. If you have that its probably D O A. Next clean the vents and chimney of wasp & rodent nest and general filth. Now you can bench test. Usually elec. 1st. Connect to 12 or 110 V, depending on your unit. If the chimney warms in 20 /30 min. let it continue and see if it cools. If it does'nt warm either check the connections & element or check it on propane. Its been my experiance the most common fault on the propane side is the regulator on the tanks. Fridges are fussy about that. A regulator that runs every other appliance in the trailer may not be good enough for the fridge. A fridge wants 11 to 13 column inches of pressure or they ain't happy. Then comes the propane burner itself. Years of surface rust and "stuff" has been falling down the chimney tube on & in the burner, its a matter of how plugged it is. At the least it needs to be vacumed off. Better yet removed, disassembled and cleaned. End result should be a bright blue flame, not yellow or orange. Certianly there are many other potential problems but the above have fixed a half a dozen for me. Door seal check. Bright flashlight inside fridge after dark & look. Bulge in bottom plastic case. Liquid left in fridge leaked or defrosted fridge not cared for and leaked into insulation then froze.
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Old 05-19-2013, 05:02 PM   #14
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Putback, any ideas on what to clean rust off the door seals?
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